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Opinion: Why quality has helped the top four in the Championship this season

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As the Sky Bet Championship season draws to a close, the title race is still wide open with four teams still in the running for automatic promotion into the Premier League.

Ighalo has been excellent for the Hornets this season

Ighalo has been excellent for the Hornets this season

After recent seasons, this sort of thing is not something that we are usually accustomed to in all honesty.

The norms of the Championship are that there is usually one team that runs away with the title and there is a battle for the play-offs, and a huge scrap at the bottom of the table in the fight for survival.

However, in my opinion, the reason why there are still four teams in the running for the title this year is because they have all had fantastic striking options.

Despite Ipswich Town striker Daryl Murphy who is currently the league’s top scorer with 24 goals to his name, the top four all have their own prolific strikers which other teams haven’t got.

To start with, Watford have the deadliest trio up front in all four English leagues in my opinion and this is also backed up by facts as well.

Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo and Matej Vydra have scored 54 goals in the Championship this season which is outstanding.

Deeney became the first player in Watford’s history to score 20 goals in three consecutive seasons which on its own is a thing that should be applauded.

Even though you could class him as one of the stand out strikers in the division as well as in England at the moment, free transfer Ighalo is still battling it out with him to be the clubs top scorer this season and win the clubs golden boot come the 3rd of May or maybe even later.

Similar to Deeney, Ighalo has 20 goals as well which once again represents a fantastic bit of Business by the Hornets.

In addition to the clinical pair, fan favourite Vydra also has 14 goals this season. Even though he hasn’t played the amount of games that Deeney and Ighalo have, it still shows you that if you have class in reserve, should you need them, they will always be able to perform for you.

Similar to Watford, league leaders Bournemouth, who have been the biggest surprise package of the championship season have three strikers who have scored a total of 46 goals between them. Summer signing Callum Wilson has bagged 19 goals in his first season at the Cherries and Eddie Howe will be looking at him thinking that he has done one of the best pieces of transfer business in the clubs history.

Largely down to the goals that Wilson has supplied, the club have kept up the pace in and around the top of the league for the majority of the season but once again similar to the situation at Watford, one strikers performances cannot over shadow that of the other two at the club.

At the age of 33, Yann Kermorgant is still producing some outstanding displays of football for Bournemouth. The veteran striker has bagged an impressive 14 goals this season and has been one of their main features in recent games where the Cherries haven’t shined so brightly.

As well as the 33 goals from Wilson and Kermorgant, 27 year old Brett Pitman has also helped out the cause by scoring 13 goals. For a striker that is sometimes classed as the ‘third choice striker’, similar to Vydra, a return of 13 goals is still an impressive stat to look at.

In my opinion, the reason why Bournemouth and Watford have had very successful seasons is because of their striking options. The figures back up my opinions! They also show the gulf in class between the top and the bottom of the league because Watford’s front three have scored 21 more goals than Blackpool have all season, Bournemouth have score 13 more and Norwich have scored 10 more which is just unreal when you think about it.

Speaking of Norwich, in my opinion, the reason why they have had a late surge into the automatic promotion places is because new manager Alex Neil has got the team playing in such an attacking way that teams just seem to crumble under the pressure.

During his time so far at the Canaries, Neil has pushed his midfield higher up the pitch which has seen the end product from that part of the pitch improve vastly. So much so that Bradley Johnson now has 13 goals for the season, which as a midfielder is a very good turnaround.

However, their main source of goals has come from their front pairing of former Stoke City striker Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban who was a summer buy off current league leaders Bournemouth. Between them, the pair have managed to bag an impressive 30 goals which isn’t as many as Watford and Bournemouth but for a team that has only just began to really push hard for the championship title, I believe it is a brilliant thing to achieve.

Finally, outside contenders for the title Middlesbrough also have their own talismanic striker who has aided them so much this season. On loan from Premier League leaders Chelsea, Patrick Bamford has netted 17 goals this season for Boro and without those goals, they surely wouldn’t be where they are.

In my opinion, had Bamford not produced for Middlesbrough this season, I believe they could have been mid table finishers, but luckily for them he has! Unlike the current top three in the championship, Bamford hasn’t really had much help in the goals department apart from club captain Grant Leadbitter who has chipped in with 12 goals from midfield. Like Johnson for Norwich, his goals have been vital for Boro and they have also lifted the weight off Bamford a little bit because it would have been unfair to constantly rely on him every game.

Having watched the on loan Chelsea striker a few times this season, he still isn’t in the same league along with the likes of Deeney, Ighalo, Wilson and Jerome because if he doesn’t receive the service that he is looking for then his head drops down whereas the four names that I previously mentioned would go looking for the ball.

For the reasons listed above, I personally do not believe that Middlesbrough have a strong enough team to compete for the championship title this season even though they have been there or thereabouts all campaign.

Purely for the fact that Bournemouth have sparkled in the championship this season and the fact that Watford and Norwich have both performed outstandingly as well, I believe that these three teams will be rewarded by gaining promotion to the Premier League even though one of them will have to go up via the playoffs.

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